AG Griffin sues pharmacy benefit managers for roles in Arkansas opioid epidemic

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 102 views 

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin announced Monday (June 24) he has filed a lawsuit against pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) Optum, Inc., and Express Scripts, Inc., and their subsidiaries for their roles as a cause of the opioid epidemic in Arkansas.

Griffin is seeking a jury trial in Pulaski County and wants the defendants to “pay restitution to the state to the full extent” permitted by law.

“Pill by pill and dollar by dollar, PBMs enabled the opioid epidemic in Arkansas. Today, we begin the process of holding them accountable for their roles in a crisis that has ravaged our state—a crisis they helped cause, contributed to, and furthered,” Griffin said.

“The PBMs benefited financially from the opioid crisis in Arkansas by negotiating favorable deals with opioid manufacturers while at the same time forgetting the interests of Arkansans who received prescriptions. Instead of protecting consumers by leveraging data to curb excessive prescriptions, PBMs focused on the financial incentives of manufacturer rebates to drive profits at the expense of people,” he added.

Between 2006 and 2014, Arkansas recorded almost 1.5 billion units of opioids. By 2016, Arkansas had the second-highest opioid prescription rate in the nation, with 114.6 opioids being dispersed for every 100 Arkansans, nearly twice the national average, Griffin said.

The lawsuit alleges the PBM defendants:

Fueled the opioid epidemic in Arkansas by increasing opioid utilization by placing opioids on lower tiers of their formularies, controlling what less addictive pain treatments were available to patients, and falsely representing that their formularies were designed to be cost effective and achieve favorable health outcomes but instead were designed to maximize profits;

Operated online retail pharmacies that dispensed billions of morphine milligram equivalents of opioids while failing to follow state and federal laws on controlled substances; and,

Were aware of the opioid epidemic in Arkansas and failed to take any action.

Read the lawsuit at this link.